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Published June 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Hoeven meets with Lisbon, Ransom officials on flood recovery

LISBON, N.D. – Dean Seelig’s yard still shows the scars of spring flooding here.

By: By Heidi Shaffer, INFORUM

LISBON, N.D. – Dean Seelig’s yard still shows the scars of spring flooding here.

Where grass, trees and flowers once grew, now sits leftover clay from a dike that protected Seelig’s home from the Sheyenne River.

Now that the flood cleanup nears completion, Seelig waits with about a dozen other Lisbon residents to find out whether his home will be part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s buyouts.

With the recovery comes questions, including what measures can be taken to prevent the next big flood.

Gov. John Hoeven met with Lisbon, Ransom County and state officials Wednesday to discuss the ongoing flood recovery.

Mayor Ross Cole, along with City Council members, expressed a need for permanent flood protection.

“We’re getting pretty sick of repairing our roads every 10 years,” Cole said. “After going through this spring’s flood, I think the permanent dikes are needed.”

In April, the Sheyenne crested at 22.84 feet, a level that easily exceeded the previous record of 19.29 feet in 1997.

Cole questioned the role of buyouts in the placement of permanent flood protection.

Cole’s concerns stem from a FEMA stipulation that says buyout properties must stay vacant, which means any permanent structure, including levees, cannot be built on them.

If levees cannot go up along the river where the homes applying for buyouts are located, there are few places permanent protection could be built.

City and state officials also continue working with the Army Corps of Engineers to figure out what kind of levee system would work.

Current designs for levels are too large for the area Lisbon would need protected.

“(The corps’s) definition of a levee is a massive structure big enough to hold back the Mississippi,” said Terry Robinson, state flood recovery officer.

The corps is looking into designing smaller dike systems for cities like Lisbon, Robinson said.

“We have to work together on this … so that you don’t get into buyouts faster and with more zeal than you should be,” Robinson told Cole.

Hoeven said he is committed to getting Lisbon the resources it needs to successfully recover from the flood.

“This has to be – just like the flood fight – well coordinated,” Hoeven said.

City officials are hoping to expedite work on roads that were damaged during the flood because of the short construction season.

The city also needs to decide whether or not to file buyouts individually or collectively before money can be allocated for other work that needs to be done.

Seelig will continue to wait to see if his home will receive a buyout. He started the cleanup in his basement, where water rose to more than a foot, leaving much of the basement unusable.

“I don’t want to spend a lot on fixing it up and then get it bought out,” Seelig said.

Hernandez warns against people waiting for repairs because of the limited amount of money FEMA has available for buyouts.

“The buyout process is very competitive,” Hernandez said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 235-7711